A number of lawsuits have greeted Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef's Al Bernameg [The Programme] third season which has just kicked off.
This was the most anticipated media and social event in Egypt and probably the Middle East.
Last year, around 30 million viewers across the Arab World watched the one-time heart surgeon's satirical show. It seems that in Egypt at least, this hasn't changed, as Ramez Youssef points out:
مصر كلها قاعدة نفس القعدة بظبط دلوقتي !!
All of Egypt is sitting in the exact same way right now [watching the show]!!
Viewers were kept on their toes, with an 18-minute advertising slot before the show, which ignited their anger and sarcasm:
Am returning to Egypt in 2 weeks so should arrive just in time for the second half of tonight's el Bornameg.
— أبو كار (@Sarahcarr) October 25, 2013
I think the new @DrBassemYoussef show (if it ever starts) will be the most obsessively live-tweeted program since the Breaking Bad finale
— ashraf khalil (@ashrafkhalil) October 25, 2013
Viewers were wondering if the show would still keep its sarcastic edge after the recent political events and the change in power that shook Egypt. Would Youssef bring balance to the current media, all of which is overwhelmingly pro-Army and nationalistic? From a formal point of view, the show remained the same with it's classic recipe of video clips from Egyptian TV, sarcastic commentary often fueled with sexual innuendos, and Broadway-like songs on stage. Many would speculate if Al Bernameg would have a go at Egypt's current strongman, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, and Minister of Defence, General Abdelfattah Al Sisi as it used to do with former president Mohammed Mosri last season.
After the 70-minute show ended, reactions were very mixed which goes to show how divided and the political scene is. Dr Saif AbdelFattah pointed out that laughing on the wounds of Egyptians wasn't the right thing to do:
أن تجهز علي جريح ..وتسخر من معتقل .. وتسف في حق شهيد ..وتكرر أكاذيب أمنية..وتشوه رمز للحرية (رابعة) بطريقة مقززة .. هذه ليست أخلاق #الرجال
— Dr.Saif AbdelFattah (@drSaifAbdelFatt) October 25, 2013
To laugh on a wounded, to make fun of a prisoner, to scorn a martyr, to repeat the government lies, and to defame a symbol of freedom (Rabaa) in a disgusting manner… those aren't gentlemen ways
Nadia Al Magd says pretty much the same thing pointing out that the sarcasm missed the point:
@DrBassemYoussef السخرية من الضحية وليس من القتلة بعد مجازر قتل فيها آلاف ودس السم في العسل ليس مروءة ولا جدعنة وأشياء أخري يا دوك
— Nadia el-Magd ناديا (@Nadiaglory) October 26, 2013
Sarcasm towards the victims (thousands of them) and not on the perpetrators, among other things, isn't very elegant
Some notice, with much regret, that the programme's tone was harsher during Morsi days:
Bassem Youssef was always harsher with Morsi but he even gradually tested some waters then. Today isn’t the day we’ll see how far he’ll go.
— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) October 25, 2013
As Mohamed El Dahshan pointed out:
طيب #باسم بيتريق على معجبي السيسي، مش على السيسي نفسه، و ده ذكاء منه. بس الحقيقي للأسف: هي ان "البرنامج" كان فيه حرية و جرأة أكثر أيام مرسي.
— Mohamed El Dahshan (@eldahshan) October 25, 2013
Bassem pokes fun at Sisi fans and not directly at Sisi, which is smart. But the truth be said, unfortunately, the show has lost some of its freedom and edge
Others seemed quite satisfied with this first episode and tried to put things in perspective:
I thought Basem Yousef could never directly mention Sisi. I was wrong. The ending was a direct message to Sisi himself.
— The Big Pharaoh (@TheBigPharaoh) October 25, 2013
"Bassem Yousuf didn't go far enough". Let's see if you'd have gone this far had you been in his position. No? Alright then. #Egypt
— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) October 25, 2013
The last category of commentators, which seems to be the largest by far, are the pro-Army and pro-Sisi netizens, who seemed very offended by the sexual innuendos and the lack of respect that Youssef allegedly showed towards the Egyptian army and its head. Several groups have decided to attack the presenter's attempt to “defame and insulting minister of defense Abdel Fatah El Sisi.”
A pro-Sisi Facebook group has vowed to silence Youssef:
The poster above reads:
We will never allow this vulgar and failed clown to mock the symbols of the Egyptian nation you son of a ****
Also, the legal adviser of the Muslim Brotherhood youth branch, has also decided to file a complaint:
تقدم المستشار القانوني للمجلس الأعلي لجمعيات الشبان المسلمين العالمية ببلاغ للنائب العام المستشار هشام بركات, ضد باسم يوسف الله عليكم :)
— Ghada Shahbender (@ghadasha) October 26, 2013
The legal adviser of the Muslim Brotherhood youth branch has filed a lawsuit against Bassem Youssef
And the lawsuits came piling in:
Can't keep track of how many people/groups are taking Bassem Youssef to court for his first episode of El Bernameg. #Weird
— Mohamed Fadel Fahmy (@Repent11) October 26, 2013
Mohamed Fathy points out that copies of those complaints have reached Egyptian TV channels only 10 minutes after the show ended:
معلومة: أول بلاغ قدم ضد باسم يوسف وصلت نسخة منه لعدد من وسائل الإعلام بعد مرور 10 دقائق فقط من انتهاء الحلقة..يعني متجهز أصلاً :)
— محمد فتحي (@mfathypress) October 26, 2013
For your information, the copy of first lawsuit against Bassem Youssef arrived at a number of media outlets only 10 minutes after the end of the episode. This means that they were prepared beforehand
In order to face such an uproar, CBC, the channel that hosts Bassem Youssef's show, has decided to react and issue a public statement saying:
“CBS has followed the public reaction to yesterday's episode of Al Bernameg presented by Dr Bassem Youssef. Most of those reactions were offended by what they saw during the episode. CBS asserts its will to defend the national feelings and pride and will make sure that no offensive expressions or sketches that could disrespect the feelings of the Egyptian people or the symbols of the Egyptian state, will be aired. The channel also affirrms its dedication to complete freedom of expression and information and it's full support to the Egyptian revolution and it's goals”
Apparently this was not “just an episode in some show,” as Youssef himself twitted at the end of the episode:
ماكنتش حلقة في برنامج يا جدعان.
— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) October 25, 2013
This wasn't an episode in a show
In another tweet he adds:
"البلد مش مستحملة سخرية في الوقت ده" قيلت امبارح و من سنة و من سنتين. الى جانب الشتائم و التخوين
— Dr Bassem Youssef (@DrBassemYoussef) October 26, 2013
The country cannot take sarcasm now. This was said last night, and a year ago and two years ago, in addition to all the insults and accusations of treachery
It's obvious that Youssef plans to continue dishing out his weekly satire to Egyptians and the Arab world. How ready is Egypt for this latest round?